Cat Kidney Failure

"Cat kidney failure can develop over days or years. Symptoms usually do not appear until the disease has progressed to a stage that requires immediate treatment. Some types of disease are reversible if the underlying cause can be corrected. Treatment includes removing toxins that have built up in your cat's body and dietary change."

The kidneys maintain the correct balance of water and electrolytes in the blood and filter waste products out of the blood for removal from the body. When the kidneys don�t function properly, toxins build up in the body.

There are two classifications of cat kidney failure (also called Uremia). There is acute kidney failure and there is chronic kidney failure.

Acute kidney failure has a sudden onset and can be caused by:

* Poisons: antifreeze or rat poison
* Trauma: any type of trauma that causes the blood pressure to fall dramatically, such as heart failure, shock and blood loss from being hit by a car
* Certain medications
* Urinary Blockage: something that is blocking the lower urinary tract
* Blood Clot: if a clot blocks an artery

Chronic kidney failure is the leading cause of death in cats. It develops over time and can be caused by:

* Old Age: 35% of older cats have some kidney problem
* Infections: such as peritonitis and leukemia
* Heart disease
* Diabetes
* Congenital deformities of the kidneys
* Cysts in the kidneys (Polycystic kidney disease) * Medications: such as anti-inflammatory drugs * Nephritis: Inflamed kidneys
* Hyperthyroidism/Renal Failure: the two diseases are seen together and can cause kidney disease

Cat Kidney Failure Symptoms

In most cases, kidney disease will not show any symptoms until approximately 70% of the kidney is affected.

The most common symptom is an increase in urination and in turn drinking due to the kidney's inability to retain water. You can tell if the litter box is becoming filled with urine faster.

Symptoms of acute kidney failure include:

* Dehydration
* Pain around the kidney area
* Little or no urine output

Symptoms of chronic kidney failure include:

* Increased thirst- drinking A LOT more than usual
* Increased urination- your cat may begin to have "accidents" in the house
* Loss of appetite
* Weight loss
* Weakness
* Depression
* Vomiting
* Pain around the kidney area
* Dark tongue
* Breath smells like ammonia

Cat Kidney Failure Diagnosis

To diagnosis cat kidney failure, your vet will do blood work and a urinalysis. He or she will also do x-rays and perhaps an ultrasound to look for kidney stones. Rarely, a vet will decide to do a kidney biopsy (take a tissue sample) if treatment requires an exact diagnosis.

Cat Kidney Failure Treatment

To treat acute kidney failure, the underlying cause of the kidney failure must be addressed first. Then IV fluids are given to help remove the toxins from the body. In some cases, dialysis is needed. In peritoneal dialysis, fluid is injected into the abdomen and later drawn back out to help remove the toxins from the body. In hemodialysis, a machine is used to filter the toxins from the blood stream, effectively doing the work of the kidneys. Hemodialysis is very costly and many veterinary facilities are not equipped to provide this treatment. There may or may not be lasting damage to the kidneys.

Some cases of kidney failure can be reversed if the damage is not too severe and the underlying cause can be eliminated. Even if the kidney condition cannot be reversed, treatment could still help your cat live a longer life.

The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of the disease. Provide your cat with plenty of fresh water at all times. Steroids or blood transfusions may be given to treat anemia. Sodium bicarbonate may be given to help regulate pH levels in the blood.

It is possible to arrange for your cat to get a kidney transplant from another cat.

You can also feed your cat a commercial cat food designed specifically for cats with kidney disease with a preference for moist canned foods (vs. dry foods). These foods have controlled amounts of protein, minerals, and salt. Commercial foods made for kidney failure include:

Eukanuba MultiStage Renal
Purina Veterinary NF
Hill's Science Diet K/D

Your veterinarian may recommend supplement for vitamins that are no longer being adequately produced by the kidney such as Vitamin D and B.

Another option is a supplement that contains natural herbal ingredients known to support kidney health. Pet Alive makes a supplement specifically for this purpose. Be sure to discuss this option with your veterinarian so that they can monitor progress.


Cat Owners Home Veterinary Handbook
Eldredge, Debra M
Carlson, Delbert G.
Carlson, Liisa D.
Giffin, James M.

Feline Chronic Kidney Disease and Systemic Hypertension
G. F. Grauer1 and C. E. Atkins
Department of Clinical Sciences
, Kansas State University


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